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German History in Documents and Images
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"Everyone Reads Everything" – A Reading Café in Berlin (1832)
The years between 1815 and 1848 saw the introduction of educational reforms, the spread of mandatory elementary education, and the increasing availability of books and newspapers. As a result, Germany’s reading public expanded enormously during this period, peaking during the years of the revolution. The painting below, tellingly entitled Everyone Reads Everything [Alles liest Alles], attests to the literate public’s voracious hunger for reading materials. But the ever watchful presence of the sovereign, literally represented by a portrait of King Frederick William III (1770-1840), raises serious doubts about whether even close to “everything” was available to these avid readers. Following the Wars of Liberation against Napoleon, the Prussian monarch had abandoned further reforms in favor of restoration, opting in 1819 for repression in accordance with Metternich’s Carlsbad Decrees, which included press censorship. The obvious fact this reading café is populated solely by men speaks to contemporary conceptions of gender roles, according to which women's place was the private world of home and family, not the public sphere. Oil painting by Gustav Taubert (1755-1839), 1832.